Tribpedia: Kirk Watson

Toll Road Projects in Limbo Following Session

An advocate for restricting funds for toll-roads in Texas attends a rally March 23rd, 2015
An advocate for restricting funds for toll-roads in Texas attends a rally March 23rd, 2015

Texas' network of tolled highways totals more than 500 miles, but its growth was curtailed this session as lawmakers passed several measures making it tougher for toll projects to move forward. Some fast-growing communities are scrambling to find new funding avenues for highway expansion projects with uncertain futures.

A fueling station for vehicles powered by compressed natural gas sits in Austin. As of mid-March, Texas was home to 130 natural gas fueling stations, according to the Railroad Commission of Texas. Those 77 public stations and 63 private ones serve about 7,200 vehicles.
A fueling station for vehicles powered by compressed natural gas sits in Austin. As of mid-March, Texas was home to 130 natural gas fueling stations, according to the Railroad Commission of Texas. Those 77 public stations and 63 private ones serve about 7,200 vehicles.

After Early Momentum, Energy Legislation Stalls

Who killed the House and Senate's top energy bills? Their autopsy evokes the names of T. Boone Pickens and Koch Industries and involves plenty of squabbling between the chambers.  

Gov. Greg Abbott delivering his State of the State speech on Feb. 17, 2015.
Gov. Greg Abbott delivering his State of the State speech on Feb. 17, 2015.

In Texas, a Collapse of Ethics Reform

When the gavel comes down on the 2015 legislative session on Monday, lawmakers will have considered, but ultimately failed to pass into law, about two dozen different proposals aimed at curbing conflicts of interest and shining light into the dark corners of the Capitol.

Sen. Kirk Watson D-Austin and Sen. Joan Huffman R-Houston, discuss language to amendment for SB #11 relating to campus carry on March 18th, 2015
Sen. Kirk Watson D-Austin and Sen. Joan Huffman R-Houston, discuss language to amendment for SB #11 relating to campus carry on March 18th, 2015

New Prosecution System for Politicians Advances

Texas politicians are on the verge of creating a new system for prosecuting a unique type of white collar crime — the type that involves them. Both chambers on Saturday voted to send a bill to Gov. Greg Abbott that would let politicians and their staffers face prosecution in their home counties — not the liberal state capital. 

Sen. Kirk Watson D-Austin and Sen. Joan Huffman R-Houston, discuss language to amendment for SB #11 relating to campus carry on March 18th, 2015
Sen. Kirk Watson D-Austin and Sen. Joan Huffman R-Houston, discuss language to amendment for SB #11 relating to campus carry on March 18th, 2015

Wining and Dining Disclosure Bills Advance

Bills designed to shed more light on wining and dining of politicians by lobbyists and contractors advanced in the Texas Legislature Monday.

Sen. Kirk Watson D-Austin and Sen. Joan Huffman R-Houston, discuss language to amendment for SB #11 relating to campus carry on March 18th, 2015
Sen. Kirk Watson D-Austin and Sen. Joan Huffman R-Houston, discuss language to amendment for SB #11 relating to campus carry on March 18th, 2015

Lawmakers in No Rush to Disclose Wining and Dining

Two bills aimed at requiring disclosure of lobbyist wining and dining are on the verge of being snuffed out in the Senate State Affairs Committee, according to the sponsor of the measures. That's despite Gov. Greg Abbott’s vow a few weeks ago to “dedicate this session to ethics reform."

Austin State-Supported Living Center employee Tamika Mays is shown with resident Rebecca Hadnot in 2011.
Austin State-Supported Living Center employee Tamika Mays is shown with resident Rebecca Hadnot in 2011.

Senate Votes to Close Austin Institution

The Austin State Supported Living Center will be the first closed, but more are to come as the state continues moving away from residential centers for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Senate Finance Committee Chairwoman Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, confers with Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, during a March 11, 2015, committee hearing on state contracting issues.
Senate Finance Committee Chairwoman Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, confers with Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, during a March 11, 2015, committee hearing on state contracting issues.

Tax Cut Measures Headed to Full Senate

The Senate Finance Committee voted Tuesday to send proposals cutting property taxes and business taxes to the full Senate, though some senators questioned whether the property tax cuts could be better spent in other ways.

Greg Abbott is shown visiting the Senate chamber on Jan. 13, 2015.
Greg Abbott is shown visiting the Senate chamber on Jan. 13, 2015.

Abbott Expected to Renew Push for Ethics Reform

Advocates for ethics reform say Gov. Greg Abbott has a rare chance to help spearhead improved lawmaker disclosures and reduce conflicts of interest in Texas. Abbott, who proposed ethics reform during the 2014 gubernatorial campaign, is expected to address the issue Tuesday in his State of the State address.

Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, debates changes that would affect the so-called "two-thirds rule" in the Texas Senate on Jan. 21, 2015.
Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, debates changes that would affect the so-called "two-thirds rule" in the Texas Senate on Jan. 21, 2015.

Watson Wants More Disclosure of Wining and Dining

Sen. Kirk Watson has filed three bills that would close a gaping loophole in state ethics law that allows lobbyists — often under pressure from legislators — to avoid naming names when they fill out their mandatory spending and entertainment reports. 

A 2013 look at at a boat dock at Lake Travis, whose water level has decreased markedly amid a historic drought. Lake Travis is part of the Central Texas' Highland Lakes.
A 2013 look at at a boat dock at Lake Travis, whose water level has decreased markedly amid a historic drought. Lake Travis is part of the Central Texas' Highland Lakes.

At "Kumbaya" Meeting, New Colorado River Plan Passes

The Lower Colorado River Authority approved a new plan on Wednesday to manage the Colorado River and its reservoirs, known as the Highland Lakes. Cities and environmental advocates were happy with the plan, but some coastal farmers expressed disappointment.

 

Texas Attorney General and Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott speaks to supporters at Lavazza Espression on Congress Avenue in Austin.
Texas Attorney General and Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott speaks to supporters at Lavazza Espression on Congress Avenue in Austin.

Farmers Insurance PAC Gives to Abbott Amid Lawsuit

Critics of Attorney General Greg Abbott say the state's top lawyer has not fairly represented Texas homeowners who were charged too much by an insurance company whose employees' PAC has given generously to his campaign. Abbott, his campaign and Farmers Insurance contend a proposed settlement agreement is fair.